The Skunk Train Whistle sounds, signaling its departure to the redwoods and a concert surrounded by giants. Laurel Street is closed for a car show, and city hall is hosting a quilt exhibit. Galleries are open late offering wine, snacks, and a new presentation of local talent. A family sits in the pocket park listening to a local troubadour sing, “Oh, Mendocino.” It’s Friday night in downtown Fort Bragg.
Fort Bragg is my hometown in coastal northern California. For over 17 years, I’ve lived within walking distance of the center of town. Downtown Fort Bragg is made for strolling, window shopping, and meals with friends and family. Downtown sidewalks are full of locals and visitors. The Victorian-era storefronts along Main Street (CA Highway 1) holds shops, eateries, a marine science center, a local history museum, and galleries.
I hope you’ll enjoy some of my favorite restaurants in downtown Fort Bragg. I’ve eaten at these restaurants many times. Each has its own special dish I return to again and again.
1. Taka’s Grill
Taka’s Grill serves Japanese food expertly prepared from fresh local produce, fish, and meat. Sushi is king. It’s served at the sushi bar or at tables. You’ll find all your favorite traditional Japanese dishes on the menu.
My favorite is a salt and pepper cod bento box at lunchtime. It’s a satisfying meal served with miso soup, a salad, salt and pepper cod, rice, and assorted tempura. I add a small bottle of nigori sake as my lunchtime treat. If nigori isn’t your style, there is an outstanding selection of other types of sake, beer, and wine from which to choose.
Eggheads Restaurant is a Main Street institution. Eggheads is the breakfast and brunch place known for enormous omelets and gigantic biscuits. You’ll also find traditional breakfast favorites, benedicts, burritos, and breakfast sandwiches.
Eggheads is a tiny little spot with inside table service. Expect to wait on weekends; the waiting room is on the Main Street sidewalk, so you can do a little window shopping as you wait. You’ll be given a buzzer to signal when your table is ready.
3. Cucina Verona
Cucina Verona is the place for Italian food in downtown Fort Bragg. Cucina offers table service inside and outside on the patio for BLD. The full menu has many traditional northern Italian dishes that will entice you to return again and again.
Special “family nights” are an engaging and delicious way to share a meal. On family night, everything is served family-style, just like mama’s kitchen. The libations menu is a treasure chest of local and Italian wines and beer.
4. Mayan Fusion
Mayan Fusion has my favorite way to order and eat — tapas. But, until you try Chef Silver’s Mayan Fish Tacos, your taste buds are being deprived.
Through his food, owner and Chef Silver Canul conveys the Mayan culinary and cultural traditions of his childhood home, Peto, on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Silver makes annual pilgrimages to see his family and to locate herbs, spices, and other ingredients essential to Mayan cuisine. You can experience them for lunch and dinner with inside and outside table service.
The menu has familiar Mexican dishes such as tacos and enchiladas. Try some of the Mayan-style dishes like sauteed Mayan sweet white corn, empanadas, papatzul (a fabulous Mayan dip), Yucatan cioppino, cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork in banana leaves), and so many more.
I go for tapas when I’m there. Small plates of fish, meat, and veg are perfect for sharing a meal with friends and family. The kids’ menu is varied and reasonably priced.
Silver’s is a good place for libations. You’ll also find your favorite local wine, beer, and Silver’s extensive tequila selection.
5. North Coast Brewery Tap Room
North Coast Brewery Tap Room (also called “The Pub”) is a local favorite. Come taste Fort Bragg’s favorite beers from North Coast Brewing Company while enjoying their “pub grub” menu of sandwiches, soups, salads, and fish dishes.
Bar and dining room table service are offered for lunch and dinner. Fish/shrimp and chips are beer battered with North Coast Scrimshaw. A North Coast brew is suggested to pair with many menu selections. I think their brew house burger is one of the best in downtown. It comes with red seal onion bacon jam. I could eat it by the bowl.
6. Café One
The vegan’s best friend, Café One, serves vegan, vegetarian, and carnivore dishes. Café One is open for breakfast and lunch, with indoor table service, friendly smiles, and lovely, healthy food.
Breakfast has all the usual suspects, like eggs and sausage, but you can have yummy pork or turkey sausage. My favorite vegetarian breakfast is the hippie scramble — shiitake-vegetable hash is served with a scramble made of potatoes, peppers, cheese, onion, and organic eggs. Delicious!
Café One’s entrée salads are works of art made from fresh, seasonal, and organic ingredients. I can’t wait to see the soup of the day each time I visit. My favorite is mushroom-barley. Don’t pass up dessert, especially if it’s carrot cake.
7. Laurel Deli
Have breakfast or lunch with a powerful black locomotive at Laurel Deli. The Laurel Deli is located in the depot building. Once the train depot, the massive wood structure is now an indoor mall and museum illuminating the “great train era” when trees and lumber were shipped inland via rail.
Open for breakfast and lunch, the café has indoor table service with an American diner menu. Hearty sandwiches, salads, soups, and special of-the-day entrées will satisfy most hunger. Laurel Deli is known for its pies and other house-made sweet treats. If you like something sweet for breakfast, try the cinnamon roll; it’s enormous, so you might want to share.
I enjoy their breakfast biscuits. They are the closest to a Southern-style biscuit I’ve found in California. One with link sausage and scrambled eggs starts my day off right. Laurel does serve beer and wine. I order a split of bubbles and a glass of orange juice for a special occasion breakfast or brunch.
8. Headlands Coffeehouse
Want to chat with locals? Headlands Coffeehouse is the place to find them. Whether you want a simple cup of coffee or a barista-made coffee or tea, Headlands can provide it. Open all day, the food is simple and sublime. Sandwiches, wraps, soup, and pastries are ordered at the counter and delivered to your table.
Pro Tip: Go to Headlands for breakfast if you are a waffle lover. I’ve never had better waffles than the ones served here.
9. Asian Fusion Sea Valley Café
If I can have only one chicken dish, let it be the kito chicken from Asian Fusion Sea Valley Café. Succulent chicken tenderloins are coated with crunchy batter and dressed with lemon sauce. It’s combined with a mixed green salad and their delicious house-made Asian vinaigrette.
Although I haven’t tried it, Asian Fusion is now open for breakfast. The dishes are Asian in style and include one of my favorite breakfast dishes, porridge.
Asian Fusion offers a variety of Asian cooking styles created from locally sourced ingredients. Order and pick up your meal at the counter. There is a seating area where you can unpack and eat.
10. Mendocino Cookie Company
Mendocino Cookie Company‘s name tells the story. They have been scratch-baking cookies since 1984. Excuse me while I run down and get a macadamia nut/chocolate chip delight. In addition to amazing cookies, enjoy Zappa’s coffee, espresso, tea, smoothies, frappes, muffins, and scones. Order at the inside counter or the outside window. Seating is available outside or inside the common area of the Company Store Building.
11. Cowlick’s Ice Cream
You’ve got to stop at Cowlick’s if you love ice cream. The handmade artisan ice cream and sorbets have a seasonal flavor menu. Try a cone, shake, malt, banana split, ice cream sandwich, or ice cream cake. No matter what you choose, you can’t make a mistake.
12. Mendocino Chocolate Company
Gourmet chocolates, artisan truffles, fudge, nuts, chews, toffee, gummies, and sugar-free delights fill the cases and gift boxes of Mendocino Chocolate Company. Molded chocolate takes on many shapes and sizes. A gift box of chocolate shells is a perfect sweet souvenir from your Mendocino Coast visit.
13. Roundman’s Smokehouse
While Roundman’s Smokehouse and Butcher Shop doesn’t serve meals inside or out, they do sell their incredibly fresh and smoked meats, fish, and cheeses over the counter. This old-fashioned, family-owned butcher shop has been supplying coastal residents and eateries with the best quality meat on the coast for over 20 years.
The smoked salmon is a memorable souvenir of your Fort Bragg visit; also, give the smoked sausages a try. The variety of smoked cheeses is surprising, with smoked blue cheese being the most popular. So, whether you are filling your larder or picnic basket, stop at Roundman’s.
14. Fort Bragg Farmers Market
Undoubtedly, the Fort Bragg Farmers Market is the best place to eat downtown. On Wednesday afternoon, farmers from all over Mendocino County begin setting up for the market. Stalls with a wide selection of vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and prepared foods line Franklin Street for two blocks.
Organic farmers, bakers, cheesemongers, and winemakers are the best way to get a real taste of Mendocino County.
Why Eat In Fort Bragg?
Eateries here have access to some of the country’s greenest fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, and wine. Every restaurant is locally owned, managed, and operated. Many have been in business for several generations. Creative chefs and cooks are proud to serve you a taste of the coast.
Restaurants are informal, hosts are welcoming, and servers are knowledgeable. Few restaurants in Fort Bragg require reservations, but making one for large groups, holidays, or special events is a good idea. Every eatery is California casual, so your jeans, fleece, and flannel will fit right into the local scene.
Fort Bragg is a small town. It’s laid back. The sidewalks are usually rolled up after 10 p.m. However, there’s plenty to do before then. Nature is our biggest draw, followed closely by local seafood and wine. Hiking, biking, kayaking, daydreaming, and storm-watching are favorites. You can’t help but love our wildlife, waves, wilderness, and wine.
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